If you have low back pain, you're far from alone. Tens of millions of Americans are affected by it, with some only being bothered occasionally and others burdened on a nearly constant basis. Regardless of where you fall along this spectrum, there's a strong chance you've probably searched for remedies to quickly alleviate your pain.
Just as there are tons of people with low back pain, there are also tons of treatment options out there that claim to be a solution. Many are probably not worth your time, but one of the easiest and most effective things you can do for your back is to bolster the strength and increase the flexibility of the structures that could be contributing to pain. This can best be accomplished by staying physically active on a regular basis and by performing specific exercises that target the lower back, abdominal, and core muscles.
How to perform the basic bridge exercise
One exercise we strongly recommend for your low back pain is called the basic bridge, which is also known as the glute bridge or hip raise. The basic bridge exercise primarily stretches and strengthens the gluteus muscles of the buttocks and hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh. And when done correctly, it also targets various muscles that support the abdominal, lower back, and hip regions. As a result, regularly performing this exercise will lead to greater strength in these muscle groups, which will improve your posture and can help alleviate lower back pain. Even if you're dealing with chronic low back pain, properly executing the basic bridge can lead to reductions in pain.
Here's how to do the basic bridge exercise (click here for a video demonstration):
- Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor under your knees
- Tighten your abdominal and buttock muscles by pushing your low back into the ground before you push up
- Raise your hips to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders
- Squeeze your core and pull your belly button back toward your spine
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, and then return to your starting position
- Complete at least 10 repetitions
- Cautions: Two of the most common mistakes that people make when performing the basic bridge are raising the hips too high, which can strain the lower back, and allowing the hips to drop while trying to hold the position. Try to avoid these mistakes and keep good form throughout, as it's better to hold the correct position for a shorter time rather than an incorrect position for a longer duration.
- Modifications: If the basic bridge starts to feel too easy after doing it regularly over time, you can increase the difficulty by adding an exercise band, dumbbell, or exercise ball. From there, you can even try to single-leg bridge, which is a variation on the basic bridge in which you keep the same form, then raise one of your legs off the ground about 10 times, and then repeat with the opposite leg.
While the basic bridge is a great starting point, it may not completely eradicate your low back pain on its own. For persistent or chronic pain, a comprehensive treatment program prescribed by a physical therapist may be needed, and we'll take a closer look at the benefits of physical therapy in our last post this month.